According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of
The Black Swan
, a “black swan”
is a highly improbable event that is unpredictable, carries a massive impact, and
something that we try to make seem less random (T, xvii-xviii).
Black swan events can
happen at any moment, such as the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Taleb also believes that
we learn from repetition, and that after the 9/11 attack; there is a far less chance of it
occurring again (T, 78).
We tend to overestimate the recurrence of specific black swans,
like terrorist attacks.
When it comes to racial profiling, especially people from the Middle East, a
common stereotype is that they are involved with these terrorist attacks.
This is a
confirmation error, according to Taleb (T, 308).
Since the terrorists of 9/11 were Middle
Eastern, this would seem to confirm the general belief that Middle Eastern people are
Of course, not every Middle Eastern person is a terrorist.
, believes that thin-slicing plays a key role in reading people’s minds and
also gives an example of racial profiling.
Amadou Diallo, an immigrant of Guinea who
lived in the Bronx, was shot and killed by New York policemen in 1999.
He was killed
because they made a huge mistake when thin-slicing Diallo.
They saw him as an
immigrant who was looking suspicious and who didn’t seem to be scared of the police.
Diallo was just curious, and when they saw him reach in his pocket they assumed he was
going to pull out a gun.
The officers thought he was dangerous, but he was just scared
and reaching for his wallet (G, 189-196).